Margarito “Junior” Castilleja was born and raised in New Braunfels where he has lived for the past 80 years, working in the community and raising his two children. He is fortunate to also have his five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren live here as well. His current home was built in the 1930’s and is in need of several repairs, more than his family are able to handle.
Junior worked at the old fabric textile mill in New Braunfels for 40 years and then at CISD. He has no plans of leaving the city, even with his home in its current condition. He’s an active member of the community and the local Catholic church just down the road. When asked why he wants to stay in his New Braunfels home he says “Because I live here! Where else would I go? I don’t want to go anywhere.”
We went to visit Junior on a cold and rainy day to talk about why he wanted to work with Habitat for Humanity. Junior is hard of hearing, and has been described as “a man of few words” so his daughter, Michelle, helped in answering our questions.
At the start of the interview, we gathered in his small living room with space heaters to keep us warm as the house does not have a working heating or cooling system. Michelle explained the condition of the house emphasizing the deteriorating bathroom. The floorboards have been removed due to rotting wood, leaving only an unstable subfloor to walk on. The shower/tub lacks the necessary accommodations Junior needs, such as handrails and a seat, to ease the discomfort caused by his current condition, neuromyopathy, which limits the amount of time he can stand comfortably.
But her biggest concern is not the bathroom, it’s the front porch. “On days like today it’s not so much the inside...But the big problem has been the (entryway) stairs, we’ve had some issues with falling down and what not. It will be nice to have an entrance way where I don’t have to worry about the fact that he’s gotta get up those stairs when he’s going to the grocery store or coming back from my house or whatever.”
When asked how she felt about Junior living in the house in its current condition Michelle said “The way it is today? Well, it doesn’t make me happy the way it is today. That’s for sure.” She went on to explain “If it was just a quick patch up and repair, that would be great. But it needs a whole new roof, eaves, overhangs, the sub floor in most of the house is not… Basically we would end up having to start from zero and try to build a new house ourselves.”
Michelle took us on a tour of the house so we could see the condition first hand. There was a noticeable temperature change as we left the space heaters in the living room. Throughout the house we saw large holes in the drywall exposing the wall studs and insulation, water stains on the ceiling from a leaky roof, missing floor boards, and cracks in the walls.
As our conversation ended we talked about what Junior planned to do after his Habitat home is complete, he and Michelle imagined his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids would be gathering for holidays, birthday parties, or football Sundays. “We’re a big family. We’re looking forward to some fun times.” Michelle said with a smile. “I’m excited for him to get a new home where I will feel like he is safe. I’m not worried about ‘Is he too hot’ ‘Is he cold’. Is the roof or the porch going to cave in while he’s standing there trying to get in and out of the house? So yes, for safety reasons I’m so excited and I am ready to give all of our busy work to get it done.”
Junior and his family are hoping that his Habitat home will have an open floor plan for him to move around the house easily. When we asked Junior what he was most excited about for his Habitat home he very confidently said “The future, just stay here. That’s it. I ain’t going nowhere.”